BAKER: Do not overlook the misdeeds of Saudi Arabia

The U.S. should not ignore the murder of Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi Arabia

op-mohammedbinsalman-courtesywikimediacommons

The Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman Al Saud has been accused of orchestrating the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a prominent critic of the Saudi Royal family and of Mohammad Bin Salman in particular.

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

In recent weeks, Saudi Arabia has been the focus of intense scrutiny. The Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman Al Saud has been accused of orchestrating the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a prominent critic of the Saudi Royal family and of Mohammad Bin Salman in particular. Initially, the Saudi Government claimed that Jamal Khashoggi left the Saudi consulate in Istanbul unharmed, but later admitted that the murder had been perpetrated by rogue agents, many of whom are close associates of Mohammad Bin Salman. However, even after several high-ranking ministers have been dismissed, the Saudi Government still claims that this was an unsanctioned operation that the Crown Prince had no prior knowledge of. This is unrealistic at best and an utter lie at worst. No operation involving the deputy head of the Saudi Intelligence, a prominent royal critic and 15 agents in a neighboring country occurs without high level authorization. As facts continue to come to light, and world leaders and businessmen take action against the Kingdom, the United States government must condemn Saudi Arabia and permanently halt all arms sales to the country.

On Oct. 2 Jamal Khashoggi entered the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul in order to obtain proof of divorce, so that he could marry his fiancée Hatice Cengiz. Upon entering Jamal Khashoggi was strangled to death, his body dismembered and put into a rug to be given to a local cooperator, to “dispose” of. The 15 Saudi agents responsible for this brazen act also reportedly “donned [Khashoggi’s] clothes and left the premises,” presumably to act as a body double. All of this occured as Hatice Cengiz waited outside for over 10 hours. In the aftermath of this crisis, 18 Saudi Arabian officials have been dismissed, including an advisor to the Crown Prince.

The United States has always considered Saudi Arabia a strategic partner in the Middle East, dating back to 1945. Presidents since Franklin D. Roosevelt have attempted to maintain close ties to Saudi Arabia, in part to gain access to oil and use the country as a counterbalance in the region. The longstanding partnership between the U.S. is not without faults, the U.S. has long turned a blind eye towards Saudi Arabia’s human rights abuses and the government’s ties to Wahhabism. When President Trump entered the White House, he began to cultivate a personal relationship with Mohammed Bin Salman; Trump refrained from criticizing the Saudi Government on human rights issues, and provided more U.S. tactical support for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen. President Trump is primarily focused on arms deals with Saudi Arabia and does not seem concerned about the damage that working so closely to Saudi Arabia will do to the U.S. international image.

President Trump is wrong, and the U.S. must immediately halt all arms deals with Saudi Arabia and condemn the nation for the abhorrent murder of Jamal Khashoggi. Saudi Arabia is an unpredictable ally that does not respect basic democratic principles. Saudi Arabia will continue to push the limits of what is acceptable foreign policy, and the U.S. should not support their actions by providing the country the necessary tools to engage in a war of aggression in Yemen. Continuing to sell arms to Saudi Arabia is not only morally wrong, it is a strategic miscalculation. Aligning so closely with Saudi Arabia isolates Turkey, a key NATO ally and security partner in the region, and unnecessarily antagonizes Iran. Furthermore, by not offering a full condemnation of Saudi Arabia, President Trump is encouraging further aggression by Mohammad Bin Salman. If Mohammed Bin Salman is willing to kill a journalist on foreign soil as the Crown Prince he will only become bolder as King.

Proponents of arms deals with Saudi Arabia point to the jobs that the arms deals create and the goal of using Saudi Arabia to counterbalance Iran. However, President Trump has vastly overestimated the jobs that our deal with Saudi Arabia will create. Trump claims that the newest arms deal will create 500,000 jobs when in reality it will likely not even create 10 percent of that figure. Furthermore, there are other ways to reduce Iran’s influence in the region, primarily by improving our personal relationship with countries in the Middle East and not relying on Saudi Arabia as a proxy.

There has been a lot of backlash against Saudi Arabia in the past month, but one voice that was all too quiet was the White House. The most definitive statement by President Trump was when he said that, “They had a very bad original concept.” There have been too many articles written about the abdication of moral leadership under President Trump, but it is still hard to listen as he can barely condemn the murder of a permanent U.S. resident by a foreign government. Congress should take the lead on this issue and block the sale of U.S. arms to Saudi Arabia. America must not only denounce Saudi Arabia’s actions but it must take action itself and not allow this heinous crime to go unanswered. 

Matthew Baker is a Viewpoint Writer for The Cavalier Daily. He can be reached at opinion@cavalierdaily.com.

related stories